Non-communicable diseases also referred to as chronic diseases are emerging as leading health problems in developing countries such as India. Chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disorders, and cancer. In the past two decades, younger adults in mid-30s are being diagnosed with increased blood pressure, hyperglycemia, and atherosclerosis i.e. plaque formation in the arteries. This implies that chronic diseases are not a problem of the geriatric populations only; rather younger adults aged 30 to 45 years are also at an increased risk of developing such health issues. Simple blood tests can help in early diagnosis and initiation of medical treatment of individuals who have developed chronic diseases at a much younger age than expected. Let us have a look at blood tests which can be life-saving and extremely useful in early detection of diseases.
- TSH: TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. A TSH test is a blood test that measures the amount of circulating thyroxine hormone. It plays a cardinal role in regulating your weight, body temperature, muscle strength and your mood. This test helps in finding out if a person has pre-existing thyroxine hormone deficiency which can help in the determination of hypothyroidism i.e an underactive thyroid gland. The reference TSH range for an average adult is reported as 0.4 – 5.5 mU/mL. A value above 5.5 is indicative of slow metabolism due to thyroxine deficiency and indicates that you need to visit your endocrinologist as soon as possible, in order to get prescription for buying thyroxine supplements to improve your metabolism, heart rate, hair and nail growth.
- Fasting blood glucose: This test is important for determining if you have hyperglycemia or not. FBG levels >120 mg/dl are suggestive of diabetes and must be taken very seriously. Ideally, fasting blood glucose levels should be <100 mg/dl.
- HbA1c: This test gives us an idea about raised blood glucose levels in the past three months. It is considered to be a reliable test for confirming diabetes and is recommended by endocrinologists and diabetologists globally. This is because red blood cells function only for 8-12 weeks before being re-synthesised, therefore measuring HbA1c levels can be used to assess blood glucose levels during that time period, implying that it is a dependable long-term estimate of glycemic control.
- Fasting serum insulin: This is a test for checking whether a person has increased or decreased insulin hormone levels in the body.
- Kidney Function Tests: These tests are recommended by nephrologists and general physicians to rule out kidney disease or malfunctioning. Important tests include glomerular filtration rate (GFR), serum uric acid, urea, creatinine, and BUN (blood urea nitrogen). It is reported that the average GFR for an adult is typically 90 to 120 mL per minute. GFR refers to the rate at which substances in plasma are filtered through the glomerulus (in ml/min). GFR can also be defined as the rate of clearance of waste substances from human blood.
- Liver Function tests: These tests are recommended by physicians to check the levels of bile pigments, liver proteins including, serum albumin, and prealbumin, and liver enzymes such as alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), and 5′ nucleotidase. The values of these compounds are elevated in liver disorders such as alcoholic liver disease (ALD), fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other infections.
- Lipid profile: This includes testing for abnormalities in levels of triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, VLDL, and total cholesterol. High levels of HDL indicate good heart health and low levels of HDL are suggestive of cardiovascular disease and an elevated risk of stroke. Elevated LDL and VLDL suggest dyslipidemia and an erratic dietary pattern and sedentary lifestyle. Lipid profile should be normal and any deviations in the levels of LDL, VLDL, and total cholesterol should be taken seriously.
- Iron studies: Tests such as serum iron and ferritin are included in iron studies. Low iron stores must be corrected by visiting your family doctor and taking high-quality iron supplements in capsule or tablet form daily. Not taking iron supplements will worsen the severity of your anaemia and will put you at a heightened risk of heart disease, breathlessness, fatigue, and poor work productivity.
- Serum calcium: Normal serum calcium levels lie between 8.2 and 10 mg/dl. Abnormal levels of serum calcium can be suggestive of multiple health problems. Higher levels of serum calcium are indicative of taking extra vitamin D supplements, overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), cancer, or Paget disease. Lower than normal serum calcium indicates vitamin D and magnesium deficiency, hypoparathyroidism, kidney disease, and liver disease.
- CRP: It is a marker of inflammation present in blood vessels and can give an indication of underlying heart problems.
- CBC: Complete blood count profile includes a plethora of tests such as haemoglobin, RBC, WBC, hematocrit, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), leucocytes, basophils, neutrophils, monocytes, and a few other parameters. It gives an idea about your medical conditions, overall health, and helps in reviewing treatment options.
- Vitamin D: This is the most common deficiency found in adults and senior citizens. Low exposure to sunlight, drinking dairy beverages not fortified with vitamin D, and failing to take dietary supplements can cause vitamin D deficits. Vitamin D regulates mood, energy levels, and bone metabolism. It is crucial to visit your family doctor and take dietary supplements if long-standing vitamin D deficiency has been established.
- Vitamin B12: Deficiency of vitamin B12 causes megaloblastic anaemia and this deficiency is commonly noted in individuals who are vegans and who exclude dairy and meat products from their diets.
- Folate: This is perhaps regarded as the most important vitamin for optimal brain health and to prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases. It is particularly important for pregnant women who can deliver babies with birth defects if they fail to take vitamin supplements during pregnancy.
Hope you realise now that it is important to get the above-mentioned blood tests after you cross the age of 35 years so that you can find out if you are suffering from any hormonal or vitamin deficiency or medical health problem. Visit your nearest medical laboratory today to get these tests done and follow up with regular physician clinic visits to keep your health in check.
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